Dave and I have taken a Miami to Key West road trip three times plus once from Miami to Key Largo. With winter in full swing, we thought it was time to update our Florida Keys road trip itinerary for 2023 to let you know how things are coming along down in the South of Florida.
This great American Road trip is definitely one to add to your bucket list and a trip to Key West will transport you to the Caribbean without needing to hop on a plane.
Miami to Key West Drive
Hurricane Update: The Florida Keys remain open after Hurricane Ian with the infrastructure intact. All 142 bridges are open connecting the 124-mile-long island chain. Plas gas stations are in operation. Most attractions are operating however check for limited hours of operation.
The Miami to Key West drive is 164.4 mi via US-1 S and takes 3 hr 30 min without traffic. You could drive directly to Key West from Miami in one afternoon but that would take all of the fun out of visiting the amazing stops and the Florida Keys along the way.
Our drive to Key West starts at the Miami airport where you can pick up your rental car to start this iconic road trip and drive all the way to the southernmost tip of the Continental United States in Key West. How cool is that? For rental car prices, you can compare rates at CarRentals.com
Overseas Highway to Key West
When driving from Miami to Key West, you will be taking one of the most unique road trips in the world. This passes through a chain of 800 Keys that are connected by a series of 142 bridges spanning 124 miles. (note: Not all Keys are reachable by car) While the Miami to Key West drive is 164 miles, the real road trip begins at the gateway to the Florida Keys.
The Florida Keys Overseas Highway is 113 miles long from the United States mainland to Key West. This chain of islands off the southern coast of Florida divides the Atlantic Ocean from the Gulf of Mexico and each Key has its own activities and benefits for visiting.
As you head south to Key West, take your time to really soak in the experience. At times, you’ll be surrounded by water before coming upon a key that is developed with hotels, restaurants, and plenty of watersports. In short, the drive to Key West is as spectacular as it is unique.
We’ve shared some fun things to do in Key West that you can check out here 33 of the Best Things to Do in Key West, Florida. We also have a post dedicated to Miami Read more: 30 Fun Things to do in Miami, Florida. These are great resources to read before you begin your Miami to Key West drive.
While this road trip guide starts in Miami, it focuses more on the road trip stops from Key Largo to Key West as that is where the bulk of the fun truly takes place. However, we do include some things to do in Miami and The Everglades including where to stay at each stop.
Miami to Key West Map
Are you ready to explore the best stops from Miami to Key West on one of the great road trips in the world? We’ve included a map that you can follow along on your drive to Key West to make things easier.
The drive from Miami to Key West can be done in 3 1/2 hours but to really appreciate it, you should take your time and spend the night on a couple of Keys before reaching your final destination.
Key West is a destination unto itself and many people fly directly to the Key West International Airport without ever leaving the island. Even though we love Key West, we think that would be a shame as the other Florida Keys have a lot to offer.
So even if you are flying directly to Key West, rent a car for a day or two to see these other stops in the Florida Keys. It’s a great way to escape the crowds and see a different side of the Southernmost point in the Continental United States.
Once you get to the south of the mainland, the road trip begins just past Florida City crossing over Jewfish Creek. Crossing that first bridge is thrilling. It feels like we’re heading to the Caribbean but instead of a five-hour flight, we’re driving to the tropics!
Tips for Driving From Miami to Key West
We highly recommend renting a car in Miami for your Florida Keys Road Trip. We have also driven to Key West from Fort Lauderdale Airport where we picked up a rental car as well. Check Rental Car Comparisons at CarRentals.com
You will be following mile markers for reference throughout your road trip with your overseas highway. You officially enter the Florida Keys at Mile Marker 127 at Florida City with is at the Junction of the Florida Turnpike and U.S. 1. You will follow the mile markers all the way to Mile Marker 0 in Key West.
Get your Key West Overseas Highway Self Driving Tour that highlights the top attractions from Miami to Key West including Hollywood landmark the African Queen riverboat as you follow the route of the historic Overseas Railway to Plantation Key, the smuggler’s haven. It gives tips to check out Big Betsy, the giant lobster, and Theatre of the Sea.
The Miami to Key West drive then takes you through Islamorada and on to Anne’s Beach, Long Key, and Marathon until you reach Key West.
Tolls: Florida has a lot of toll roads and we suggest getting a SunPass. All tolls in Florida are collected electronically if you don’t have a Sun Pass, you will be billed utilizing the TOLL-BY-PLATE system where you will be charged a $25 fee on top of the toll. Check the Florida Turnpike website for details.
About the Overseas Highway
There are 42 bridges connecting 34 Florida Keys spanning 124 miles. The most famous bridge on the road trip from Miami to Key West is the Seven Mile Bridge at Marathon. We had always wanted to drive this southernmost stretch of US Highway 1 since watching True Lies in 1994 and when we finally did, it lived up to the hype. We had to get on that highway that goes to the sea. It is truly the coolest thing to drive over these bridges located in the middle of the sea.
Built in the 1930s the Overseas Highway followed the East Coast Railroad line which was damaged by a hurricane. Thanks to that feat of engineering, 3 million visitors make their way to the Florida Keys each year, and Dave and I were part of those millions.
It’s easy to find attractions and things to do on the Overseas Highway by following the mile markers. The road is well marked with Mile Marker zero located in Key West. When driving south from Key Largo, you’ll be counting down from mile marker 106 letting you know how far you have to go to Key West. Nice!
Now that you have a bit of background on the highway, let’s see what there is to do on a Florida Keys Road Trip.
Top Things to See on a Key West Road Trip
One of the best tips we can give for taking a Florida Keys Road Trip is to avoid the high season and long weekends when driving. If you do need to drive during this time, go late at night or before sunrise to beat the traffic. Our first time driving to Key West from Miami, we never made it past Key Largo. Traffic was at a halt and we decided to stay put.
Luckily we had the chance to try our Florida Keys Road Trip two more times and I am happy to say that we made it to Key West each time. With each trip, we saw more and our latest trip was just a few months before COVID-19 hit. We look forward to going back to do more.
After landing at the Miami Airport, pick up your rental car and start your trip in Florida’s most exciting city. No trip to South Florida would be complete without seeing the glitz and glamor of Miami.
Take a walk along the white sands of South Beach and explore the beautiful architectural designs of the Art Deco District. Don’t forget to drive your rental along Ocean Drive and hop on a boat and take a tour of Millionaires Row. There’s a popular cruise that takes you by the estates, with great return views of the Miami skyline.
This highly-rated tour includes takes you through the glitz and glamor of the Art Deco District to see historical landmarks such as Versace’s decadent mansion and beloved Hollywood stops showcasing the likes of Miami Vice. And make sure to check out Miami’s nightlife. For more Miami attractions, read our post Things to do in Miami
Where to Stay in Miami
- Mid-Range – Right on the beach and along Ocean Drive, Marriott Stanton is a superb choice for traveling families. Make the most of two on-site pools, spas, saunas, and a gym with the beach and restaurants all within walking distance. Check rates and reviews on Booking.com
- Luxury – Occupying an entire city block, 1 Hotel South Beach is the epitome of Miami luxury. Soak in the expansive floor-to-ceiling ocean views, with exquisite decor and the largest rooftop pool in town. Check rates and reviews on Booking.com
- Budget – Miami isn’t a haven for budget travelers, but Hotel Shelley comes with cozy rooms with Art Deco charm. Enjoy modern amenities, free WiFi, close to all the action. Check rates and reviews on Booking.com
2. Everglades National Park
Since you are driving, you can make a detour to Everglades National Park before entering the Florida Keys from Miami. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is an international biosphere reserve and is home to a number of endangered species including the Florida panther.
Everglades National Park also offers Airboat tours so you get to see all kinds of places while cruising through the water. The park also has trails, 4WD tours and extreme sporting among a ton of other things to do. Read more: Best National Parks – USA Edition
Located just 30 miles west of Miami, the Everglades National park is a wetland oasis primed for an eco-adventure and makes for a great stop on your Miami to Key West Road Trip. If you want to book a tour from Miami instead of driving, you can book this private tour to explore the immense 1.5 million acres on a private airboat tour.
Where to stay in Everglades
We suggest staying in Miami or Key Largo and making a day trip to Everglades National Park. But Florida City is a great stop to break up your Miami to Key West Drive and is close to both the Florida Keys and Everglades.
- Travelodge by Wyndham in Florida City is an affordable option excellent place to stay. It is located just off Highway 1 and makes for a great gateway to the Everglades and the Florida Keys.
- Home2 Suites by Hilton – Is another good choice in the heart of Florida City.
3. Key Largo
There are plenty of things to do in Key Largo, so our first introduction to the Florida Keys and a place you can stay for a full vacation. We did our first trip to the Florida Keys, and my brother did just last year when he took a long road trip from Canada to Key West. They made a base in Key West and explored the Florida Keys from here.
Key Largo is pretty awesome. Movies and songs have been written about Key Largo and live some of that nostalgia at the Caribbean Club. The Caribbean Club is the oldest bar in the upper keys, dating back to 1938.
It has seen a lot of action over the decades, most notably hosting Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall as they filmed the movie Key Largo. It’s still a family-run business and a great place to stop for some Key Lime Pie, a Bloody Mary or to listen to some live music.
There are plenty of things to do in Key Largo, so we suggest spending at least the night here and check out a few of the items we are about to mention as you follow along on this Miami to Key West road trip.
4. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
If you are looking to have an adventure, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is one of the top things to do in Key Largo. It is home to the only living coral reef in the United States and if you want to explore underwater, this is the place to go.
What makes snorkeling or scuba diving different in Key Largo is that you can dive to see “Christ of the Abyss” a nine-foot-tall underwater statue of Christ located in just 25 feet of water off the coast of Key Largo.
Book this snorkeling tour from Key Largo – this half-day tour takes you to the most beautiful locations in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and Pennekamp State Park. Explore the coral reefs of Molasses, Elbow, French Reef, and the famous Christ of the Abyss on Dry Rocks. When we’ve been snorkeling in the keys we saw, sea turtles, eagle rays, and moray eels – and there is a good chance you will see them as well.
Where to Stay in Key Largo
- Luxury – Playa Largo Resort – The Playa Largo Resort and Spa has luxury rooms, bungalows, and a beach house. You can book many Key West water sports at the hotel.
- Mid Range – Key Largo Marriott Beach Resort – You can never go wrong with a Marriott. It’s our favorite mid to upper-range hotel chain. It has an onsite marina and dive shop offering plenty of water sports to book at the hotel.
- Budget – Dove Creek Resort and Marina – This intimate boutique hotel was inspired by Caribbean Hemingway Hideaways. Located on the Atlantic Ocean, in Key Largo, Dove Creek lodge sits adjacent to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
5. The Fish House
A great stop for lunch is the Fish House to grab a staple Florida Keys dish of Conch Fritters, fish tacos and Florida lobster and stone crab. It’s a great atmosphere and has been a Key Largo staple since 1982. We enjoyed a starter of coconut shrimp followed by a delicious portion of Mahi Mahi.
6. Alabama Jack’s
Another quirky place that can only be found en route to the Florida Keys is Alabama Jacks. Popular with motorcyclists Alabama Jack’s is located under Card Sound Bridge which is the old toll road on an alternate route from Florida City. Instead of taking Highway 1, take 905A card sound road. But be warned, you need to have cash to cross the toll bridge.
Alabama Jack’s is renowned for its conch fritters and has a great atmosphere sitting on two barges among the mangroves. It’s always a happening place. Located at 58000 Card Sound Road.
7. Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen
For a unique and delicious slice of Key Lime Pie head to Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen that was so good its become famous in the upper keys. You can order a whole key lime pie to go!
8. Islamorada Key
The next island on your Florida Keys Road Trip is Islamorada Key. We loved Islamorada Key so much, we wrote an entire article about all the things to do. Things to do in Islamorada. But just in case you don’t want to click off of our road trip itinerary, let’s go through all the things that you simply cannot miss.
We suggest spending a night on Islamorada Key to really enjoy its laid back vibe. Scroll down to see why.
9. Robbie’s Marina
Robbies Marina is the place to be in Islamorada with watersports, restaurants, bars, and attractions, it is a place you can spend the entire day.
Enjoy the day hanging out at Robbies Marina. There’s a great restaurant, outdoor shops and plenty of water sports leave from here. We had breakfast at Robbies, and even though it was early in the day, we had a slice of Key Lime Pie. You can never get enough Key Lime pie in the Florida Keys.
10. Feed the Tarpon
A unique thing to do on Islamorada is to feed the tarpon at Robbies. After nursing an injured Tarpon way back in 1976, the friendly Tarpon named Scarface came back again and again for some food and to say hello. He eventually brought his friends and the tarpon have been coming to the docks ever since to leap out of the water for a tasty treat.
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Parasailing in the Florida Keys is an amazing way to see the bridges and keys from above. It’s a gorgeous view to see the bridges spanning over blue waters with islands dotting the landscape. You can make out the coral reefs and it truly is a blast. If you’ve never gone parasailing before, this is the place to do it. Parasailing with Sundance Watersports.
12. Other things to do on Islamorada
If you want to do some shopping, head into Rain Barrel Sculpture Gallery at Rain Barrel Village, it top Florida Keys destination for more than 40 years. You can’t miss it, just look for the giant rock lobster out front.
If you are staying over or have a designated driver, don’t miss hitting the beer garden of the Florida Keys Brewing Company. We loved sampling their microbrews.
Where to Stay in Islamorada
Islamorada is a great place to make a base before heading farther south. From here you can explore Duck Key, Lower Matecumbe Key to the South and Plantation Key to the North.
- Postcard Inn at Holiday Isle – This is the most popular place to stay on Islamorada offering cottages and rooms with Marina and Atlantic Ocean views. There are water sports on site and you can book scuba diving, glass bottom boat tours, and snorkeling trips. It also has the popular Tiki Bar on the beach so even if you aren’t staying there, make sure to have a cocktail or slice of Key Lime Pie at this world famous location.
- Hadley House Resort – We stayed at Holiday House Resort a boutique resort with cottages. I would recommend staying at the building overlooking the water. Cottages are set back from the sea and the hotel building seemed much better. Your $25 resort fee covers use of Stand up paddleboards and kayaks. There’s parking and a pool.
Marathon is a city that spreads across several Florida Keys. Starting just past Duck Key it spans across seven keys: Knight’s Key, Boot Key, Key Vaca, Fat Deer Key, Long Point Key, Crawl Key and Grassy Key islands.
We haven’t spent a lot of time on Marathon but it is a popular place to visit in the keys. From the Dolphin Research Center to Aquarium Encounters it has all the makings for a good family vacation. Marathon is also the gateway to Seven Mile Bridge and Pigeon Key Island. There are some nice beaches on Marathon Key as well, Sombrero Beach and Coco Plum Beach are good places to hang out. And there is a dog park which is a good stop if you are traveling with pets. Read 18 Best Beaches in Florida for Fun in the Sun
Where to Stay on Marathon Key
Marathon has a lot of options for accommodation and is more affordable than Key West. You can find hotels ranging from luxury to budget. A lot of people take day trips to Key West from Marathon.
14. Turtle Hospital
What we recommend visiting is the Turtle Hospital. The Turtle Hospital is one of the most popular stops on a Florida Keys Road Trip to see the work that goes into the rehabilitation of injured sea turtles. We love supporting projects like this and proceeds for your guided tour and entrance go to help save the turtles.
15. Keys Fisheries
Make sure to stop at Keys Fisheries for lunch. We enjoyed chillaxing on the outdoor patio. It’s a fast food joint where you order from a window and then find a picnic table in the packed restaurant. Get the grilled Mahi Mahi, Conch Chowder or its signature dish, the Lobster Reuben.
16. Seven Mile Bridge
Leaving Marathon Key, Seven Mile Bridge is largest segmental bridge in the world! This long bridge connects the upper Keys to the Lower Keys. Make sure to take the ferry across to Pigeon Key that was a former work camp of the Florida East Coast Railway. You can catch the ferry over from Pigeon Key Gift Shop at mile marker 48.
17. Bahia Honda Key and Big Pine Key
You have now entered the Lower Keys. You’ve made it farther than most, so keep going! Coming across 7 Mile Bridge, most people b-line it to Key West as it’s most likely been a long drive, but this is a great place to stop for at least a few hours.
At least stop at Big Pine Key to view the unique wildlife. Did you know that there is wild deer in the Florida Keys? Big Pine Key houses the endangered Key deer, and are protected by National Key Deer Refuge Nature Center. These small deer actually swim between islands!
If you like beaches, you are going to love Bahia Honda Key. This state park has nearly fully recovered after Hurricane Irma but parts of the park are still being restored. Bahia Honda State Park has camping and two beaches of note. Sandspur Beach has reopened after Hurricane Irma and has restrooms and pavilions and Calusa Beach.
18. No Name Pub
While on Big Pine Key, stop for lunch at No Name Pub. This stop is worth it just to see the dollar bills hanging from its ceiling. No Name Pub dates back to 1931 when it was a fishing store.
In 1936 they a restaurant was added and the No Name Pub was born. They have certainly taken the tradition of displaying your first dollar earned on the wall, it seems that anyone who has visited the pub has left dollar bills on the ceiling. There are even some euros and CAD dollars too.
19. Key West
Congratulations! You’ve made it to your final destination on your Florida Keys Road Trip. Key West is a great place to spend a few days taking in the Caribbean atmosphere. Key West no longer feels like the United States, it feels like a little slice of the tropics.
20. Southernmost Point – Key West
The first thing most visitors do in Key West is head to the Southernmost Point marker. This is the southernmost point on mainland USA and everyone that makes it to Key West stops here for their required photo op.
21. Watch Sunset at Mallory Square, Key West
Mallory Square is one of the most happening places in Key West and it is an excellent spot to watch sunset over the Gulf of Mexico. There are plenty of things to do in Mallory Square as well, so be sure to head over there during the day. If you are looking for a fun adventure, book a sunset tour on Aqua bikes to enjoy views of Sunset Key and Key West from the water. You can even bring two drinks along with you.
- The Maritime Museum – The Mel Fisher Heritage Maritime Museum displays many artifacts from the 17th-century ships.
- The Waterfront Playhouse – The longest-running theatre in Florida has nightly rotating shows all year long.
- Key West Shipwreck and Treasure Museum – There’s a 65-foot lookout tower, shipwreck artifacts and actors recreating the 17th century feel dressed in period clothing. Book your ticket in advance
- The Memorial Sculpture Garden is located directly in front paying tribute to famous patrons of the theatre and residents. Take a stroll through the lines of sculptures of famous residents including busts of Ernest Hemingway, Harry S Truman, Tennessee Williams, and many other important people.
22. Party on Duval Street in Key West
It’s no secret that people come to Key West for partying, and Duval Street is the place to do it. You can go bar hopping all night long on Duval Street. Some of our favorites are Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, (no trip to Key West would be complete without visiting Jimmy Buffet’s) and the Hard Rock Cafe, Lucy’s Retired Surf Bar, Sloppy Joes, Virgillios, Rick’s Café, and our personal favorite The Wine O Bar and Lounge.
If you want to join a tour of Duval Street to see the top bars and restaurants while making new friends, check out this fantastic pub crawl tour that stops at five top rated pubs with a cocktail at each stop.
23. Get on the Water in Key West
Adventure lovers will enjoy Key West and if you don’t get on the water, you’ll be missing out. An excellent tour is to book an eco-tour to explore Key West Wildlife Refuge. Go kayaking through the mangroves, enjoy snorkeling at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and enjoy a sail on an eco-friendly catamaran with Honest Eco Tours.
- Book this top-rated Sunset Tour tour here free from worries as tours can be canceled up to 24 hours in advance with a full refund.
- Look for more water and sunset tours here with Get Your Guide to find your choice of floating bars, schooners, and catamarans that will take you out to watch the stunning sunsets. They offer last-minute bookings and full refunds on cancellations within 24 hours of the tour.
One of our favourite things to do in Key West was to visit the Located (113km) 70 miles from Key West, the Dry Tortugas is one of the most remote national parks in the United States. Read all about it at Our Key West Vacation with IHG Rewards Club Points
24. Go Dolphin Watching off the Coast of Key West
200 bottlenose dolphins live in the warm waters off the Florida Keys and you can take a dolphin watching tour or we had it as part of our Honest Eco Tour. When booking a dolphin or wildlife tour be sure to use a sustainable recognized tour operator like Honest Eco Tours based out of Key West or You Can book this Dolphin Watch and Snorkeling Tour in Advance.
25. Mile Marker 0 – Key West
Well you made it! All the way to Mile Marker 0, the bottom of the United States. It is customary to grab a selfie at this sign located on Whitehead Street just south of Duval Street. You’ve earned it. This is the end of the line and a popular place to make note that you have completed your Florida Keys Road trip from Key Largo to Key West. Wasn’t it amazing?
Where to Stay in Key West
La Concha Crown Plaza is the perfect place to stay in the heart of the action, is located directly on Duval Street. The lobby is walking distance from all the top key west attractions. There’s a pool for guests only. There is a luxurious rooftop spa and gorgeous sunset views. Check for Reviews and pricing on TripAdvisor / Booking.com
Perry Hotel Key West is a quiet retreat on the marina of Stock Island. Stock Island is an extension of Key West that feels worlds away. This boutique hotel has elegant rooms overlooking the waterfront. What we loved about it was the local vibe. Check it out on TripAdvisor / Booking.com
There are many places to stay in the Florida Keys from Key Largo to Key West. But in high season it can be nearly impossible to book a room without reservations. We suggest choosing a place to stay and making it your home base to explore the Keys.
Once you are in the Florida Keys, it’s easy to explore. With Key Largo being the northernmost island, you may want to move on to Islamorada or Marathon. They are a little more central and you can drive from key to key. We have suggested hotels on each island that we highlight. But here is a round up again for you.
When to do a Florida Keys Road Trip
We have taken a road trip to Key West in October, November, and December. December is way too busy and you are going to have the highest prices.
November is a quieter time and the weather is great. You can also find more affordable accommodation and tours aren’t booked up.
December to February is the high season and you’ll have higher prices and a lot of crowds. But you are pretty much guaranteed good weather.
Late February to April is another good time to visit for lower rates and good weather.
June to November is hurricane season and it is important to plan accordingly. Hurricane Irma did extensive damage to the Florida Keys in 2017 but it has recovered nicely. This year Florida was hit by Hurricane Ian but the Florida Keys managed that hurricane quie well. That said, we’ve been to the Keys in October and had amazing weather. The summer months are hot and wet.
We were also in Key West for Fantasy Fest in October. This is a busy time, but it is a unique time to visit to see the crazy characters that walk the streets.
And these are our top stops on a Florida Keys road trip from Miami to Key West. The Florida keys are so abundant, it will take several trips to really see them all. Let us know what we missed and we’ll be sure to add it on during our next rip.
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